New Poland Regional High School football coach Spencer Emerson, an Edward Little High School graduate, served as Bates College’s defensive backs coach in 2016 and the Lewiston High School defensive coordinator in 2017. (Sun Journal file photo)

If Poland Regional High School’s new football coach has his way, the Knights will be playing fast.

That new coach, Spencer Emerson, knows something about being fast. He’s been on the fast-track to a head coaching job since he hung up his helmet for a coach’s hat.

Emerson, most recently the defensive coordinator for Lewiston, will be just seven seasons removed from his own high school playing days when he coaches his first game for the Knights this fall. The former Lewiston and Edward Little player also played a year in college at Becker College before transferring to University of Maine and transitioning into coaching.

“I’m feeling really, really excited,” Emerson said. “I feel like I’ve put in a lot of time, as a student at Maine and also as an assistant at Bates, and I’ve kind of been bouncing around trying to find my niche, and I feel like Poland is a place where I can really grow some roots and really develop as a head coach, and I think the timing was just perfect.”

Emerson, who teaches at Lewiston Middle School, takes over for Gene Keene. Emerson said Keene “did a great job of building a foundation for where it is now.” The Knights are coming off a 1-7 season in Class D South with one of the youngest rosters in the state.

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Now Emerson will try to build on his own foundation of football knowledge as he tries out head coaching for the first time.

“He’s got great connections, both high school and the college level,” Lewiston Athletic Director Jason Fuller said.

Emerson said he learned from Bill County and Dave Sterling — his football coaches at Lewiston and EL, respectively — as well as EL boys’ basketball coach Mike Adams about developing relationships. Jack Cosgrove and Joe Harasymiak, the former and current Maine football coaches, taught him about the time and dedication necessary to coach football, as well as the demeanor coaching demands. And he also calls former Lewiston head coach and current Bates assistant Skip Capone “a great mentor.”

“Just kind of piecing together my style based on trial and error, and seeing what’s worked from other guys that have done it before me,” Emerson said.

That’s a lot of wisdom to pull from for a first-time coach at the young age of 25 years old. Yet Emerson said his youth can be an asset as well.

“I feel like my youth, while it presents some challenges, also gives me kind of a leg up because I feel like I’m very relatable, and guys are going to know what I’m talking about right away,” Emerson said.

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Fuller, who has known Emerson since he was a kid following older brother Jared Turcotte — a former Blue Devils star — around, called Emerson “easily relatable” and “easy to talk to.”

“I think kids definitely gravitate towards Spence,” Fuller said. “Just his personality is such that kids want to be around him, and want to work for him.”

Emerson said Poland was looking for a charismatic coach who could bring a new energy to the program. There were other coaching options he was looking at, but after visiting the school and facilities, and talking with athletic director Don King, decided that Poland was the right place for him.

“Every experience I’ve had with them has been positive,” Emerson said. “And all I know is that they have some young players really excited to play some football, and I think the hunger’s there. I think the community is just a great place to be, and a real sports town. I always call Poland kind of a hidden gem. They are really passionate, the fans are excited, but you don’t hear much about them because they’re a small school, and I’m hoping we can win some football games and get people excited about Poland.”

On the field, Emerson wants his team to mirror what his Blue Devil defense showed this past fall — to be fast and aggressive. That will go for the offense as well, with the Knights playing out of shotgun formations and playing with tempo.

“I think I’m kind of modern in the sense of we’re going to get after it, we’re going to have a good time playing football, we’re going to have a lot of fun,” Emerson said.

Being a former Lewiston player, it was hard to leave Blue Devils, Emerson said, but he said he couldn’t pass up a head-coaching job.

Fuller called Emerson’s departure “a huge loss” for his program.

“He’s done all the things he needs to to get to this point, and I’m really proud for him and I’m certainly really happy for him,” Fuller said. “He’s going to be a good coach.”

Spencer Emerson, then the defensive backs coach for Bates College, talks with Frank Williams during practice in Lewiston in 2016.

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